High Country Local First
from the Mountain Pathways garden
Written by Luci Hancock, BRWIA AmeriCorps VISTA
Mountain Pathways was recently awarded a HCLF and Lettuce Learn grant, which they used to replace their hive that was lost this past year and to add an additional hive. The grant also allowed for the purchase of two pairs of wee-bee gloves, which older students use if they want to work with the bees.
The bees have been a valuable teaching tool for Mountain Pathways school and their summer "Farm Camp". Through discussions and lessons focused around the bees, students have learned about diet and nutrition, flower and tree identification, indicator species, naturalization and invasive species, conservation and much more!
Mountain Pathways sells the honey from their hives to help fund their Farm Camp. They use the profits to pay for field trips to local farms, to buy seeds and soil for their garden, and for supplies needed to make snacks using ingredients from the garden. The Farm Camp teaches students about intensive, sustainable agriculture practices. Throughout the program, campers learn problem solving and critical thinking skills, as well as how to apply math, science, technology, and engineering concepts in everyday life. Campers also learn entrepreneurial skills by marketing and selling farm products through the camp's road side farm stand.
For every Local First Rewards Card sold, High Country Local First donates $5 to support local school garden programs in Watauga and Ashe Counties. This grant cycle, Lettuce Learn and HCLF awarded three schools with grants to build or expand upon their garden-based educational programming.
Written by Ali Moxley, Garden Lead at Mountain Pathways
Wow! The last couple of months have really flown by. (I’m sorry I have not updated as frequently as I would have liked). Over the summer Mountain Pathways ran several sessions of Farm Camp for 9-12 year olds. I had the pleasure of getting to pick food from the garden and cook with the kids. The whole structure of the camp is an important model of where I hope the future of school gardening is headed. The kids planted their vegetables from seed, watered and weeded the beds, and eventually harvested them. After the vegetables had been harvested the kids cooked, sold, or donated the food. They were a part of the whole process from root to stem. They learned to be responsible for their food and grew to respect the food system in a totally new way. We taught them the importance of using the whole vegetable and how they could use food scraps to feed the worms in our bin, creating compost for future growing seasons.
Each week was structured differently so that we could meet the immediate needs of the garden and provide fresh concepts to returning campers. Some of the field trips the kids went on included bean picking, teaching younger children at the child development center, and exploring a mushroom farm (my favorite!). We also had guest speakers/ businesses come and work with the children at the school. One week the Farm 2 Flame truck came and cooked pizza using vegetables from the garden. Other weeks we had anthropologists and engineers come. There was a way for each child to experience something they were interested in and connect it back to the concept of social stewardship.
Now that the school year has started my time with the kids will be structured differently. Twice a week I will go in and cook with the kids and discuss nutrition. The new students that I have worked with so far seem to be very excited about getting outside and working in the garden. We have started a few fall vegetables and are looking forward to getting more going soon. We will also continue to sell their produce in the Kids’ Corner at the farmer’s market so come out to see us!
Written by Ali Moxley, Garden Lead at Mountain Pathways
Water. For me, Lettuce Learn really became impactful through the lens of water. The first month and a half of my partnership with Mountain Pathways I assisted with a number of very interesting and useful tasks with the teachers I was paired with (Emily and Kristy). We partnered with Appalachian Mountain Brewery and with the help of some very persuasive and cute 9-12 year olds, raised over $1000 for the program. However, it wasn’t until Kristy and Emily took their kids on a week-long trip to New York that I began to grasp the powerful movement school gardens help create. Before the class left, the teachers showed me the various ways to water the multitude of plants we had started growing. I was initially shocked by the amount of water each plant needed. This led to two trains of two thoughts, the first being that plants are a fairly similar to humans.
There are several basic examples of this such as how plants need food and care just like people. I also began to understand that just as each plant has various water needs and would turn into very different living things, Courtney Baines had created a program that allowed each school to do the same thing. She provided us with the tools needed to empower and help students learn in an innovative and captivating way, but had also allowed each school to develop its own program. If you were to come visit the Mountain Pathways garden (which I highly recommend if you ever get the chance) you would hear a much different creation story than if you visited the Lettuce Learn garden at the Child Development Center.
Here at Mountain Pathways I see a group of mature children who are taking it completely on themselves to grow and learn alongside the plants they are nurturing. I like to joke with my roommate and say “I’m headed out to my garden for a while.” But to be honest that couldn’t be further from the truth. This garden entirely belongs to the children that run it and they have welcomed this responsibility with open arms.
The other lesson I learned through watering was the bounty of information that I didn’t know and that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. As Kristy walked me through the process there were so many little lessons for me to absorb. As the week went on and I spent more time in the garden, I had more and more questions pop up in my head. Everything from why the leaves of certain plants were getting eaten, to if it was okay that a large number of aunts had taken up a home in one of the beds. This showed me how perfect of an environment a garden was for an outdoor classroom. It does take some flexibility in making lesson plans being in an area that is continually surrounded by a forever changing system, but the garden creates a safe space where kids are excited and unafraid to explore the world around them and continually ask questions.
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture Office
Lower Level 171 Grand Blvd
PO Box 67
Boone, NC 28608